Session Instructors


Session Instructor Bios

  • Jack Carlson

    leaves graphicJack Carlson is a Certified Professional Photographer who has been a photography instructor at the Chicago Botanic Garden since 2009. A musician since youth, Jack didn’t actually enter the visual arts until adulthood. His beliefs about the visual arts and photography from early on continue to inform his philosophy. In his opinion, photography as an art form does not mean taking hundreds of shots and later manipulating them. What matters is the critical eye: using light, color, texture, and composition. This means taking fewer photos that
    need little or no after-capture editing. It means getting it right at the scene.

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  • Rick Darke

    Rick Darke grounds his work in an observational ethic, which blends art, ecology, and cultural geography in the design and stewardship of living landscapes. His projects include residential gardens, parks, post-industrial sites, transportation corridors, corporate and collegiate campuses, conservation developments, and botanical gardens. Rick’s Pennsylvania home garden, which he and his wife Melinda Zoehrer made and maintain together, has served as their living laboratory for a quarter century. His many books include The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest, The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes, and The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, co-authored with friend and colleague Doug Tallamy. Visit www.rickdarke.com for further information. 

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  • Cheryl Erins

    Cheryl Erins is a certified Orchid Judge in the Chicago Judging Center. Her passion is teaching others about orchids, caring for them in the home, and encouraging others to join local societies. Active in orchid conservation projects, she has traveled to Singapore, Panang, Thailand, and Brazil looking for orchids in their native habitats. This year she and her husband will travel to Ecuador for the World Orchid Conference and the Andes looking for orchids. She serves as Secretary of the Mid-America Orchid Congress and is also Chair of the Education Committee. An elected Trustee with the American Orchid Society, she presents the very successful AOS Webinars. 

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  • Mark Geist

    Mark Geist is the owner of Geist Small Engine Service in Pleasant Valley, which has been providing service in the Quad Cities area for 30 years. In addition to sharpening mower and chainsaw blades, he does small engine tune-ups and replacements, and repairs lawn mowers, snow blowers, weed trimmers, and chainsaws. 

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  • Tim Gruner

    Tim Gruner has been driven by a lifelong love of nature to a career in horticulture. He graduated from the Kishwaukee College Horticulture Program 1987, followed by a one-year horticulture internship at Chicago Botanic Garden. Since 1989, Tim has worked and studied at Anderson Japanese Gardens under the direction of Mr. Hoichi Kurisu of Kurisu International, where he is currently Garden Curator. Tim is a frequent contributor to Sukiya Living Magazine, and he has presented at conferences for the North American Japanese Garden Association, of which he is a past member of the board of directors. 

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  • Michael Harshman

    leaves graphicMichael Harshman has always had a fascination with the art of bonsai, so he attended a bonsai workshop in his hometown of Dixon, IL, and his fascination really took off. He immediately joined Quad City Bonsai, becoming very involved in the group and quickly discovering that learning the art of bonsai is a life-long process. He currently is the Webmaster, newsletter editor, and president of Quad City Bonsai, which meets monthly at Wallace’s Garden Center in Bettendorf. The organization also brings in guest artists from all over the world to help people learn more about the amazing art of bonsai.

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  • Fran Krahl

    Fran Krahl has years of experience in floral design as the owner of the Village Flower Shop in Milan, Illinois. Now retired, she uses her talents to create large porch pots and window boxes for the holidays. You’ve probably seen her beautiful creations at Wallace’s Garden Center, which are often custom designed for clients using natural materials like evergreens, birch logs, twigs, and pinecones. Fran will share her knowledge and design secrets to help you create your own unique containers, often using materials from your own garden.

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  • Martha Smith

    Martha Smith has been with University of Illinois Extension since 1994. Her current responsibilities serve Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark counties in Illinois as horticulture educator. She coordinates and teaches both the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist trainings in her unit and offers various programs across the state. Martha is a member of the Perennial Plant Association (having served 6 years as the central region director), Illinois Green Industry Association, North America Rock Garden Society, and American Conifer Society; she is a certified arborist. Her love of plants and gardening was instilled in her by her mother with whom she worked as a perennial grower while in high school and during college breaks. 

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  • Aaron Steil

    leaves graphicAaron Steil is Assistant Director at Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens. He also teaches classes in Iowa State University's Horticulture Department and is the co-host of "Gardening Today" on WHO Radio in Des Moines (1040 AM). Steil received his Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Biology from Iowa State University and his Master of Science in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware. He has previously worked at the ISU Horticulture Extension; the Iowa Arboretum; Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; and the renowned Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. 

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  • Bill Tishler

    Bill Tishler is Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing his graduate work at Harvard, he joined the UW faculty where his scholarly work focused on historic preservation, landscape architectural history, and the architecture and settlement of Wisconsin’s ethnic groups. An award-winning author, Professor Tishler has lectured widely in America, Europe, and Asia, and he has received numerous teaching awards. He has had a long-standing interest in Jens Jensen, one of the great landscape architects of 20th century America, and is currently writing a biography of Jensen. 

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  • Gary Whittenbaugh

    leaves graphicGary Whittenbaugh has been gardening for over 40 years with an emphasis on dwarf, slow growing and unusual conifers, plus trough and rock gardening. He served as President of the American Conifer Society Central Region 2001-2005, and he was the recipient of the prestigious ‘Marvin and Emelie Snyder Merit Award for Service’ from the American Conifer Society in 2005. He is an Iowa Master Gardener and received the Lifetime Master Gardener Award in 2005. He is member of the American Conifer Society and the North American Rock Garden Society. Gary has lectured extensively, on hypertufa troughs, rock gardens, conifers, and conifer companions not only in Iowa, but also throughout the US.

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  • Ray Wolf

    Ray Wolf is a Scott County Master Gardener and the Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service in Davenport, Iowa. He is a frequent speaker on topics that connect weather and climate with gardening. He has lived and gardened in the varied climates of Illinois, Colorado, Mississippi, and Iowa. Ray earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology in 1982 from Iowa State University and followed that with Master in the Science of Agricultural Climatology in 1985. At the National Weather Service, he is responsible for managing operations, staff training, and local research.

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